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American Legion Post 551 struggles to survive pandemic and hurricanes

Updated: Jan. 28, 2021 at 8:12 AM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) - A Lake Charles American Legion post established after World War II is struggling to survive after two hurricanes and the pandemic. Despite the damage, leaders of the post are still taking care of their fellow Hometown Heroes.

“Our job is not to just have a building, but it’s for people to come into the building and be served as a veteran,” said Legion member Ernest Mitchell. “All we want to do here in this facility is take care of the veteran.”

Like many other structures in Lake Charles, American Legion 551′s post home took some damage during Hurricane Laura.

“Quite a bit of damage,” said Ed Hudson. “The upstairs is completely torn up. Windows blown out the front. Wind and rain damaged the upstairs pretty good.”

Shortly after Laura, Legion members took measures to secure the building and stop any leaks. Post leadership then took steps to contact its members and make sure they got the help they needed.

“We got the veterans some extra money that they needed at the time,” recalled Mitchell. “We got them some programs that helped give them stipends, checks. We got them over 500 thousand dollars in the community for the veterans.”

The leadership of Post 551 hopes to increase membership once the pandemic is past.

“We hope we can get more veterans involved in all the activities, that we can do more activities that would take the stress off trying to get the bills paid,” said Hudson.

But there’s still the distraction of the hurricanes and that’s top of mind now.

“A lot of our people, veterans and non veterans, are still without homes,” said Legion member Henry Batiste. “Still don’t have a place to go. A lot of us have homes to go to, but they’re not in a good enough shape to move back into.”

These three American Legion members hope to soon be meeting and holding fish fry fundraisers later this year.

For more information on American Legion Post 551, call Ed Hudson at 337-515-9437 or Ernest Mitchell at 337-802-8038.

American Legion Post 551, P.O. Box 699, Lake Charles, La. 70602

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